How to: Uyghur Homestay in Xinjiang | Xinjiang: Far West China

How to: Uyghur Homestay in Xinjiang

February 28 | 12 Comments

One of the most asked questions I receive from travelers who will be heading to Xinjiang this next travel season has to do with homestays. Is it possible to do a Uyghur homestay in Xinjiang?

The answer, thankfully, is YES! There are many places where homestays are offered, including Tuyoq Valley (near Turpan) as well as outside Kashgar. Don’t mistake this with an overnight stay at a Kyrgyz yurt, which is also an incredible experience but not quite the same.

The pictures below and their descriptions, provided by fellow Xinjiang traveler Audra Santos, should whet your appetite for a homestay on your next trip to the province. Be warned, though – a homestay is very difficult to set up on your own. Your best bet is to go through a travel agency. FarWestChina recommends Old Road Tours to set up your homestay (which is who Audra used). They’ve received multiple glowing reviews from readers and have a great reputation.

The entrance to a Uyghur home in Xinjiang, China

The entrance to the Uyghur home in Tuyoq, a beautiful city about 40km east of Turpan. Before planning such an adventure be aware that these homes are VERY traditional. There is no running water, you sleep outside near animals, and you must use an outhouse. The experience, however, is worth it!

A Uyghur HomeStay in Xinjiang, China

The beds in this particular homestay were under a grape vine trellis, which is normal for the Turpan area. The bed is usually just a raised wooden platform where traditional padded pillows and blankets are used for comfort and warmth.

A Uyghur homestay makes dinner in Xinjiang, China

Most homestays include a traditional meal to be cooked by the owners of the home. Here the meal was a noodle soup cooked by the light of a single light bulb.

A Uyghur bed in Tuyoq Xinjiang

The Uyghur beds after being rolled out at night. You might notice a TV in the background and wonder why they have a TV but no running water. That’s a perfectly legitimate question…and there is no good answer!

A Uyghur outhouse in Tuyoq Xinjiang

Need to use the restroom? Watch out for the cow. Audra calls this the “manger scene” and in this particular Uyghur house you had to walk through this stable area to get to the outhouse.


Interested? You should be! Staying overnight at a local home is one of my favorite memories in Xinjiang and I recommend you give it a try. Contact a local tour guide to set up your stay for your trip this year!

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About Josh Summers

Josh is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China's western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future.

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  1. I stayed with a Mongol family in Xinjiang and had a similarly interesting experience. There was a basketball court behind the house, right next to the outhouse, which was adjacent to the sheep pen.

    The best part was when the neighborhood kids learned that foreigners were staying in the village. I’ve never been so popular.

    One question about Uyghur homestays: Is registering with the local government required, and would your tour company take care of that? I’ve had a little trouble with border police, and that was before the latest episodes of unrest. I found that the authorities are inconsistent in their enforcement of the “no-foreigners-in-this-region” rule. A police station close to the Kazakhstan border let us go to a hot springs hotel, while one farther from the border kicked us out of a town.

    Secondly, if you do have to register with the government and stay with families expecting tourists, are you sacrificing authenticity?


    Josh on March 16th, 2011 at 1:17 am

    Trevor, thanks for the questions and I like your blog. Interesting that you had the opportunity to stay with a Mongol family in Xinjiang as opposed to a Uyghur or Kazakh.

    The answer to your first question is basically that it depends on where you are. If you’re near Turpan (where these pictures are from), nobody really cares. It’s the border regions, like you say, that pose the most risk. You’re always welcome to forgo registering and playing the dumb foreigner card if you get caught. There are risks, though.

    I don’t see how you could really sacrifice authenticity in most cases. If anything, I think it just means that the family would be prepared for your visit (with food, places to sleep, etc.).


    Trevor Williams on March 16th, 2011 at 1:34 am

    Thanks, Josh! I’ll have to try it if I make it back to Xinjiang. Gotta love the dumb foreigner card; so useful.

    Also, thanks for the kind words about the blog. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to keep it from joining the millions of others that are all but totally neglected by their owners. You’re doing a great job to keep yours going.


  2. Looks like a fantastic experience. I wonder if I’ll be able to sandwich camping, a homestay, and a night in a Yurt into my seven days and nights in Xinjiang?


  3. Based on yr recommendation, we had booked with Old Road Tours for a 16 days tour of Xinjiang, incorporating 3 of the budget tours in one.

    We are arriving Urumqi at past midnight and looking at booking a hotel near the airport as we will be flying to Kashgar the next day. Can you recommend a cheap hotel by the airport? I had look them up and most cheap hotel near the airport is for “Mainland Chinese” only. There are 8 of us travelling together.


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